TPM News

Was President Obama's big announcement yesterday that he plans to open vast swaths of the U.S. coastline to oil and natural gas drilling necessary to win Democratic support for comprehensive climate and energy legislation?

Though members of Congress and the media were thrown for a loop by the news, the announcement came as little surprise to others, particularly key Senate Democrats. This, they've accepted, is the price that must be paid to bring oil-patch Democrats into the fold on a more comprehensive energy bill.

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Two candidates enter, one candidate leaves -- all campaigns are essentially a fight to the political death. But most of the fights are in the style of pro-wrestling: scripted, predictable and (sorry to be the one to break this to you) frankly pretty fake.

Sometimes, however, candidates are forced to enter The Octagon. A few races each cycle turn into full-on, no-holds-barred brawls that would make a UFC fan cringe. No one knows who'll come out on top, but it's a good bet that everyone will get at least a little bloodied.

After the jump, our list of this year's top political cage matches.

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President Obama is speaking in Portland, Maine, on health care reform. Here are his complete prepared remarks:

Hello, Portland! It is so good to be back in the great state of Maine.

When I came here during the campaign, I made a promise. It wasn't just a promise about any one issue. It was a promise that our government would once again be responsive to the needs and aspirations of the middle-class. It was a promise that Washington would concern itself not just with the next election, but with the next generation of Americans.

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Republican promises to repeal health care have gone from full speed ahead to ... we'll see.

As Democrats are out celebrating the passage of the sweeping health care reform package, some Republicans are having second thoughts. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich went from promising repeal at campaign events to admitting recently on Fox that President Obama would veto any repeal legislation should the GOP win back control of Congress. Hence the new "repeal and replace" push from Republicans.

But several Republicans have gone even farther in recent days, backing away from repeal pledges.

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It's starting to look like there might not be any special election for the House seat formerly held by ex-Rep. Eric Massa (D-NY), who dramatically resigned last month in a scandal involving allegations of sexual harassment of male aides, a scenario that would leave the seat vacant until at least this November.

Maggie McKeon, a spokeswoman for Gov. David Paterson, told Gannett that no decision has been made on whether to fill the seat before the regular November 2 election -- and that issues of cost would work against it. "We have some serious concerns about the financial impact that a special election could have on the county level, especially because those counties are facing the same fiscal crisis that the state is facing," said McKeon.

If there were an election for this seat, the Republicans would have a pretty good chance of carrying it. The district voted for John McCain by 50%-48% in 2008, while at the same time Massa picked up the seat by a 51%-49% margin in a very Democratic year.

Over the past year, we've seen example after example of Florida GOP leaders using party credit cards for lavish personal spending -- from an $839 Starbucks bill to a $134 haircut and, now, a new allegation that the party chair used official funds to enrich himself.

Yesterday, we passed along the [news ](http://tpmmuckraker.talkingpointsmemo.com/2010/03/fl_gop_our_former_chair_is_under_criminal_investig.php)that former FL GOP chair Jim Greer is under criminal investigation for allegedly awarding himself a lucrative party fundraising contract.

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MSNBC's Rachel Maddow did a segment last night on health care lawsuits, interviewing Georgia Attorney General Thurbert Baker (D), who has refused to join the lawsuits.

Baker said he's surprised there is an effort by the Republican legislature to impeach him, since he's "doing his job" and "telling the truth."

"I could find absolutely no basis to file a law suit," he said.

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Something truly amazing happened last night on The O'Reilly Factor: Bill O'Reilly scolded his guest, Human Events editor and video blogger Jason Mattera, for being rude to O'Reilly's long-time nemesis, Sen. Al Franken (D-MN).

Mattera posted a YouTube video a week and a half ago of himself conducting an ambush interview of Franken in the Capitol Hill hallways, in which Mattera asked questions about the health care bill and then frequently interrupted Franken as he attempted to answer. At one point, he addressed Franken as "Sen. Smalley," referring to Franken's old Saturday Night Live character Stuart Smalley, the neurotic self-help talk show host. The term "Sen. Smalley" has become a term of derision for Franken among the right.

And for that particular slight, O'Reilly chewed Mattera out.

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